Unusual ice circle forms in North Dakota river

Associated Press
  • Ice Circle AP.jpg

    Nov. 24, 2013: A large spinning circle of bits of ice that Loegering spotted in North Dakota’s Sheyenne River while out hunting with friends. Members of the National Weather service said a combination of cold, dense air last weekend and an eddy in the river likely caused the disk that Loegering, a retired engineer, calculated to be about 55 feet in diameter. It’s not an unknown phenomenon, but it is relatively rare, said Loegering, who lives in rural Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo, N.D. (AP PHOTO/GEORGE LOEGERING)

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    George Loegring of Casselton spotted this ice disk while hunting over the weekend. (WDAY TV)

BISMARCK, N.D. –  When George Loegering saw a large spinning circle of ice in the Sheyenne River while out hunting with relatives, the retired engineer couldn’t believe his eyes.

“At first I thought, no way! It was surreal,” Loegering, 73, said Tuesday of the large ice disk he witnessed Saturday. “You looked at it and you thought, how did it do that?”

Then his engineering background kicked in. He calculated the disk’s diameter to be about 55 feet, took photos and videos of it and then turned to the Internet for more information about what he, his brother-in-law and nephew had seen.

“It’s not an unknown phenomenon, but it is relatively rare,” said Loegering, who lives in rural Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo.

Allen Schlag, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Bismarck, and Greg Gust, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, said a combination of cold, dense air last weekend and an eddy in the river likely caused the disk.

“It’s actually quite beautiful,” Schlag said.

The cold, dense air — the air pressure Saturday in nearby Fargo was a record high for the city for the month of November, according to Gust — turned the river water into ice, but since the water was relatively warm it didn’t happen all at once. Floating bits of ice got caught in the eddy and started to spin in a circle.

“It’s not a continuous sheet of ice,” Schlag said. “If you were to throw a grapefruit-size rock on it, it would go through. It’s not a solid piece of ice — it’s a collection of ice cubes.”

Loegering said the spinning disk had frozen up but was still visible in the river.

“I’m not sure how long it was there (spinning),” he said. “It had to be quite a long time. If you look at the picture, you can see growth rings on the disk.”

Schlag said he was surprised by the size of the ice circle, which he said would be more likely on a larger river such as the Missouri.

“That might be one of the better examples I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool one.”

Active volcano discovered under Antarctic ice sheet

LiveScience
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    Mount Sidley is the youngest volcano rising above the ice in West Antarctica’s Executive Committee Range. A group of seismologists has detected new volcanic activity under the ice about 30 miles ahead of Mount Sidley. (DOUG WIENS)

Earthquakes deep below West Antarctica reveal an active volcano hidden beneath the massive ice sheet, researchers said in a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The discovery finally confirms long-held suspicions of volcanic activity concealed by the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Several volcanoes poke up along the Antarctic coast and its offshore islands, such as Mount Erebus, but this is the first time anyone has caught magma in action far from the coast.

“This is really the golden age of discovery of the Antarctic continent,” said Richard Aster, a co-author of the study and a seismologist at Colorado State University. “I think there’s no question that there are more volcanic surprises beneath the ice.”

The volcano was a lucky find. The research project, called POLENET, was intended to reveal the structure of Earth’s mantle, the layer beneath the crust. In 2010, a team led by scientists from Washington University in St. Louis spent weeks slogging across the snow, pulling sleds laden with earthquake-monitoring equipment. [Images: Trek Across Antarctica]

Right place, right time
Two earthquake swarms struck beneath the researchers’ feet in January 2010 and March 2011, near the Executive Committee Range in the Marie Byrd Land region of the continent. As the researchers later discovered, the tremors called deep, long-period earthquakes (DLPs) were nearly identical to DLPs detected under active volcanoes in Alaska and Washington. The swarms were 15 to 25 miles below the surface.

‘There’s no question that there are more volcanic surprises beneath the ice.’

– Richard Aster, a seismologist at Colorado State University

“It’s an exciting story,” said Amanda Lough, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in seismology at Washington University in St. Louis. Though there were no signs of a blast, a 3,200-foot-tall bulge under the ice suggests the volcano had blasted out lava in the past, forming a budding peak.

“We can say with pretty high confidence that there wasn’t an eruption while we were out there,” Lough told LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet. “We had people installing [seismometer] stations and flying airborne radar over the ice. But from the bed topography, we can see there is something building up beneath the ice.”

Scientists think that underground magma and fluids pushing open new paths and fracturing rock cause deep, long-period earthquakes. Many active volcanoes in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands have frequently produced these deep earthquake swarms without any signs of impending eruptions. However, researchers also monitor the tremors because a sudden uptick in shaking was seen before eruptions at Mount Spurr and Mount Redoubt in Alaska.

A volcanic flood
If the volcano in Antarctica did erupt, it would melt the bottom of the ice sheet immediately above the vent. Scientists aren’t sure what would happen next. In Iceland, volcanic eruptions can melt glaciers, causing massive floods called jkulhlaups. But the ice above the Antarctic volcano is more than a half-mile thick.

“How West Antarctic ice streams would react to an eruption a hundred or more kilometers [60 miles] inland from the grounding line is a yet-to-be-answered question,” said Stefan Vogel, a glaciologist with Australian Antarctic Division who was not involved in the study. The grounding line is the spot where glaciers detach from rock and float on water.

“There is certainly a need for more research, both in mapping the distribution and monitoring the activity level of subglacial volcanic activity beneath ice sheets, as well as studying the impact of subglacial volcanic activity on the hydrological system of glaciers and ice sheets,” Vogel said in an email interview.

It would take a super-eruption in the style of Yellowstone’s ancient blowouts to completely melt the ice above the active volcano, Lough and her co-authors calculated. And if the volcano under the ice is similar to ones close by, such as Mount Sidley, there’s no risk of a super-eruption. [Big Blasts: History’s 10 Most Destructive Volcanoes]

Instead, the millions of gallons of meltwater might simply hasten the flow of the nearby MacAyeal Ice Stream toward the sea.

“People hear the word ‘volcano’ and get caught up in the idea that it will change the way the ice sheet works, but this stuff has been going on underneath the ice [for millions of years], and the ice sheet is in balance with it,” Lough said. “Everyday magmatism isn’t enough to cause major problems.”

Hugh Corr, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey who also discovered a buried Antarctic volcano, said an eruption could have a big effect, but it’s difficult to quantify.

“The biggest effect on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is still climate change warming the ocean, melting the ice shelves. That’s the most immediate risk, compared to if a volcano might go off,” said Corr, who was not involved in the study.

A geologic puzzle
Signs of active and extinct volcanoes pop up all over Antarctica. Ash layers and lava indicate volcanoes spouted while the continent froze during the past 20 million years or more. (An 8,000-year-old ash layer sits above the newly found volcano, but it comes from Mount Waesche, a nearby peak.)

“The [West] coast of Antarctica is like a ring of fire,” Corr said.

The earthquake swarms line up with older volcanoes in the Executive Committee Range, suggesting the volcanic activity there is slowly migrating south by 6 miles (9.6 km) every million years. This migration is perpendicular to the motion of Antarctica’s tectonic plate, so a hotspot or mantle plume is not feeding the volcanoes, Lough said. (A mantle plume should make volcanoes that line up parallel to plate motion, like those of the Hawaiian Islands.)

The big mystery is figuring out why the volcano and its forerunners even exist. “Antarctica is certainly one of the most fascinating and enigmatic of all of Earth’s continents,” Aster said. [Video – Antarctica: Solving Geologic Mysteries]

Let’s set the scene. Antarctica is split by an incredible mountain range. Imagine if Utah’s spectacularly steep Wasatch Mountains cleaved North America from Texas all the way to Canada. That’s what the Transantarctic Mountains are like. In the West, the land dives off into a deep rift valley, where the crust has been tearing apart for about 100 million years. The newly found volcano sits on the other side of this rift, in a higher-elevation region called Marie Byrd Land.

While the torn crust may seem like the best explanation for Antarctica’s many volcanoes, many of the peaks fit no obvious pattern. Rifting and volcanism in Antarctica could be like nowhere else on Earth. “What is going on with the crust in Antarctica is still puzzling,” Lough said.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photographer captures breathtaking images of world’s vanishing tribes

FoxNews.com

 

 

Stunning portraits of the world’s most remote tribes

 

Photographer Jimmy Nelson spent three-and-a-half years documenting vanishing indigenous cultures all over the world. The resulting photographs have recently been released in a voluminous book called Before They Pass Away. Here is a selection of his images.

 

To call photographer Jimmy Nelson a globetrotter is an understatement.The son of a geologist for Shell Oil, Nelson grew up on multiple continents, splitting his time between West Africa and a Jesuit boarding school in northern England. Now 46, Nelson began traveling alone at age 11, flying between England and Africa to visit his parents.

When Nelson was 16, he started on a path that would eventually lead him to spend years photographing remote tribal populations all over the world. While visiting his parents in Africa, 16-year-old Nelson contracted cerebral malaria. When he returned to school in England, he was treated with medicine that gave him alopecia areata, a condition that causes hair loss. The day after receiving the medication, all of Nelson’s hair had fallen out.

Nelson said he immediately felt like an outcast. People treated him like a different person. He felt isolated and alone.

“If you’re a 16-year-old looking like an alien, you can imagine it was tough,” Nelson told FoxNews.com.

In an attempt to find a place where his bald head would fit in, Nelson bought a one way ticket to Tibet. He brought with him an old Russian Zenit-B 35mm camera and six rolls of film. Nelson stayed for one year and took 36 pictures.

From that year onward, Nelson was a photographer. For half a decade, he worked in conflict zones and poverty-stricken regions until he decided to settle down with his wife and start a family. Nelson then switched to commercial photography to support his wife and three kids.

Then, in 2008, Nelson’s career took a dramatic turn for the worst. The advent of digital photography and a global recession brought an end to the majority of Nelson’s contracts. Short on work, Nelson was left to redefine who he was as a photographer.

“I felt a little bit like a chef who had learned for the past 35 years how to cook and make a beautiful five course meal and all of a sudden people started wanting hamburgers from me,” Nelson explained.

Lost on what to do next, Nelson asked friends and family for advice.They told him to go back to what he loved most, to return to the same passion that drew him to Tibet decades earlier.

Nelson’s mid-life soul searching led him to spend three-and-a-half years documenting vanishing indigenous cultures all over the world. The resulting photographs have recently been released in a voluminous book called Before They Pass Away.

The book profiles 35 different tribes, from the Samburu in Kenya to the Tsaatan of Mongolia, who Nelson has photographed in their traditional garb using a 50-year-old plate camera.The result is a series of stunningly beautiful images that, while they are more artistic than anthropological, offer a window into cultures that are fast evolving away from rural life.

“We as humans love beauty,” said Nelson.“Unless it’s beautiful we won’t look at it. All these people in these cultures are never represented in this way. They are patronized or made as savages.They are not made as icons and put on a pedestal. The motivation behind the project is to invert that.”

Nelson hopes that his work will shed light on all that is lost when tribal communities are faced with modernization.

“Admittedly, I’m very romantic and very idealistic,” Nelson said. “But what I’m trying to say is that these people have something to teach us.”

Click through the slideshow above to view his photographs.

US officials crush 6 tons of illegal ivory to send global anti-poaching message

Associated Press
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    Steve Oberholtzer, a special agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service, talks about ivory poachers as he is surrounded by tons of ivory at the the National Wildlife Property Repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Over 6-tons of ivory tusk and carvings worth millions of dollars that will be crushed at the facility on Thursday. The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban on the ivory trade went into effect in 1989. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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    Edward Grace, a wildlife enforcement agent, holds a carved ivory tusk at the the National Wildlife Property Repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The tusk is part over 6-tons of ivory tusk and carvings worth millions of dollars that will be crushed at the facility on Thursday. The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban on the ivory trade went into effect in 1989. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

  • b7bf2c1d47cb0626430f6a70670083b8.jpg

    Edward Grace, a wildlife enforcement agent, holds piece of a carved ivory at the the National Wildlife Property Repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The item is part over 6-tons of ivory tusk and carvings worth millions of dollars that will be crushed at the facility on Thursday. The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban on the ivory trade went into effect in 1989. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

  • b452a8aa47cb0626430f6a706700bc22.jpg

    Steve Oberholtzer, a special agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service, talks about ivory poachers as he is surrounded by tons of ivory at the the National Wildlife Property Repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Over 6-tons of ivory tusk and carvings worth millions of dollars that will be crushed at the facility on Thursday. The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban on the ivory trade went into effect in 1989. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

  • af05dc8847cb0626430f6a7067004954.jpg

    An ivory carving stands a head above others on display at the at the the National Wildlife Property Repository at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The item is part over 6-tons of ivory tusk and carvings worth millions of dollars that will be crushed at the facility on Thursday. The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban on the ivory trade went into effect in 1989. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

COMMERCE CITY, COLO. –  U.S. officials on Thursday destroyed more than 6 tons of confiscated ivory tusks, carvings and jewelry — the bulk of the U.S. “blood ivory” stockpile — and urged other nations to follow suit to fight a $10 billion global trade that slaughters tens of thousands of elephants each year.

Thousands of ivory items accumulated over the past 25 years were piled into a large pyramid-shaped mound, then dumped into a steel rock crusher that pulverized it all into dust and tiny chips at the National Wildlife Property Repository just north of Denver.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will donate the particles to a yet-to-be-determined museum for display.

“These stockpiles of ivory fuel the demand. We need to crush the stores of ivory worldwide,” said agency director Dan Ashe. He said keeping stockpiles intact can feed consumer demand for illegal souvenirs and trinkets taken from slain elephants.

Before the crush, Fish and Wildlife officials showed off thousands of confiscated ivory tusks, statues, ceremonial bowls, masks and ornaments — a collection they said represented the killing of more than 2,000 adult elephants.

The items were seized from smugglers, traders and tourists at U.S. ports of entry after a global ban on the ivory trade took effect in 1989.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a $1 million reward Wednesday for information leading to the dismantling of a Laos-based criminal syndicate, the Xaysavang Network, that Kerry said poaches elephants for ivory.

That group and others poach to fund narcotics, arms and human trafficking, the State Department said in a statement.

The message from Thursday’s crush likely will reach consumers more than the faraway poachers and smugglers. Elephant poaching is at an all-time high, thanks in large part to U.S. demand and growing demand in Asia.

The British-based Born Free Foundation estimates poachers killed 32,000 elephants last year. It says black-market ivory sells for around $1,300 per pound.

Most elephants are killed in Africa, where there are about 300,000 African elephants left. There are an estimated 50,000 Asian elephants found from India to Vietnam.

The ivory being destroyed didn’t include items legally imported or acquired before the 1989 global ban.

3D-printed fossils & rocks could transform geology

LiveScience
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    Iowa State’s MakerBot Replicator printing the Earth on Oct. 28 during the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver.(BECKY OSKIN)

Whether they’re cracking open rocks or scanning tiny changes in topography, geologists already work in three dimensions. But one of the most popular attractions at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Denver last week was a 3D printer spitting out fossils, globes and fractured rocks.

The 3D printer belonged to Franek Hasiuk, a geologist at Iowa State University and proprietor of the GeoFabLab, a hub for 3D geologic printing. By scanning and copying rocks, fossils and geologic data, Hasiuk hopes to revolutionize research and teaching.

“Humans are visual and tactile,” Hasiuk told LiveScience. “When I have something I can hold in my hands,” it makes it a lot easier to understand, he said. [How 3D Printers Work (Infographic)]

Visualizing rocks, in space
A former petroleum geologist, Hasiuk sees 3D printing as a new way to visualize pore spaces in rocks the tiny voids where oil, gas and fluids hide. He spent about $3,000 of his startup money (unrestricted research funds universities give to newly hired faculty) to buy the 3D printer this year, and about $1,400 on a 3D scanner that scans and digitizes objects.

 

‘It’s 3D data, so why don’t I try to print it?’

– Franek Hasiuk, a geologist at Iowa State University

 

“In the oil industry, CT scanning of geologic materials is a really cool technology to investigate porous rocks,” Hasiuk said. “Just like getting a CT scan of your head lets you see inside, CT scanning lets you see inside rocks without breaking them. I thought, ‘Well, it’s 3D data, so why don’t I try to print it?'”

Hasiuk plans to print different versions of the same rock samples, such as one with fractures and one without fractures. Fractures can block fluids flowing through pores and, ultimately, up a well. “It’s a way to experiment with pore space. Each model you print out would be a hypothesis,” he said.

The MakerBot Replicator 2X printer Hasiuk owns can’t replicate the smallest microscopic holes in the rocks where most oil and gas hide, but Hasiuk sees it as a good way to work out the kinks in the technology. (Another department on campus has a $170,000 3D printer, and can get the high-resolution Hasiuk needs.) “We’ll kick the tires on my printer,” he said.

Breakable fossils
Many instructors see the advantage of 3D printing fragile fossils and teaching materials for geology classes.

For example, thousands of tiny, black trilobites are squirreled away in teaching collections at colleges around the country. But these fossil arthropods, early ancestors of insects and lobsters, had some of the most spectacular shells in the early oceans. From long, curling spikes to towering eyestalks, trilobites developed armor far beyond the pill-bug-resembling appearance most students see.

Scanning and printing rare fossils could open up the world’s collections to students and amateur enthusiasts, without risking damage to the originals.

“Just think [how neat it would be] if every lab student got a type specimen,” said Hasiuk, referring to the name for a fossil or organism from which a species is described. [Video: Dinosaur Diggers Share 3D-Printed Fossils]

Hasiuk has also printed the seven crystal systems (a classification scheme for minerals) for Iowa State. The crystal models, carved from wood, are expensive yet required for teaching mineralogy to geologists.

“In the teaching vein, my goal is to make printable models of everything a geology department would need to teach,” Hasiuk said. “In the future, it doesn’t have to be, ‘All right, come to my lab and look at the models.’ You could go to the copy shop and have them printed.”

3D thinking
Three-dimensional printing could also help geology students learn to think in 3D. Many introductory geology courses feature a lab session where students “connect the dots” between swooping underground rock layers and maps of the resulting surface patterns. But drawing mental lines between what lies beneath and the 2D pattern made by the rock layers, either on a geologic ortopographic map, is difficult for many students.

To solve this problem, Hasiuk printed a 3D topographic model of Ames, Iowa featuring the university’s football stadium to help students better visualize the connection between topography on a map and topography in the real world.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t we print out topography that students would really understand?'” Hasiuk said. “I hope that, in the future, every school can pick out an area that students would recognize, draw a box around it and print it.”

Such 3D topography is also a boon for students with vision impairment. At the State University of New York at Geneseo, instructional support specialist Nancy Mahlen 3D-printed a topographic Earth globe for one of her students.

“For my student who is blind, to be able to feel the continents that’s key,” Mahlen told LiveScience.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Australia worried Katy Perry’s CD is a biohazard

News Corp Australian Papers

 

 

Katy Perry Topless in Rolling Stone

 

The outrageous songstress likes getting sexy, doesn’t like casual sex.

 

Biosecurity officers have been directed to inspect Katy Perry CDs purchased overseas due to fears they may pose a risk to Australia.

The deluxe version of the U.S. singer’s new album PRISM contains a small packet of seeds.

While the production company has assured the Department of Agriculture that the Australian release contains locally sourced seeds, international versions of the album still pose a risk.

“Seeds or plant material of international origin may be a weed not present in Australia or the host of a plant pathogen of biosecurity concern,” a department spokesperson said.

It is understood the Australian release contains harmless local Swan River daisy seeds.

But a spokesperson said further inquiries were being made regarding international versions.

“The Australian Government has a strong system in place to detect and respond to material of biosecurity concern. This includes the inspection of mail, cargo and baggage.”

Go to News.com.au for the full report.

Oldest air on Earth hiding in Antarctic ice

Discovery News
  • researcherice.jpg

    A researcher from the University of Copenhagen examines an ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. (NASA/LORA KOENIG)

Tiny puffs of air from 1.5 million years ago may be locked inside bubbles in the ice nearly two miles beneath Antarctica’s surface. That ancient air, if it exists, would be the oldest sample of Earth’s atmosphere ever recovered.

Geoscientists recently identified regions of the frozen continent that potentially preserved the not-so-fresh air. Getting a whiff of the Earth’s oldest breeze would allow an analysis of chemicals in the air at a crucial point from 1.2 million to 900,000 years ago, known as the  Mid-Pleistocene Transition.

“The Mid Pleistocene Transition is a most important and enigmatic time interval in the more recent climate history of our planet,” said lead author of the new study published in Climate of the PastHubertus Fischer of the University of Bern, Switzerland, in a press release.

During the transition, the Earth went from extreme warmth and cooling cycles alternating  approximately every 41,000 years to having the cycles change only about every 100,000 years. Sediment samples drilled from the bottom of the ocean recorded the temperature differences, but scientists don’t know why the global thermostat cycles slowed.

Ice samples from other areas yielded 800,000-year-old air bubbles. Those samples showed a lockstep correlation between higher greenhouse gas levels and increased temperatures over thousands of years, according to research published in Nature.

Greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, may have been the culprits behind the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, as well. However, drills will need to pluck a 2.4 – 3.2 (1.5 – 2 mile)-kilometer-long ice core from the Antarctic ice to give scientists the 1.5 million-year-old sample they need.

“A deep drilling project in Antarctica could commence within the next three to five years,” Fischer said. “This time would also be needed to plan the drilling logistically and create the funding for such an exciting large-scale international research project, which would cost around 50 million Euros.”

Suits claim Love Canal still oozing 35 years later

Associated Press
  • Love Canal Lawsuits1.jpg

    Aug. 2, 1978: This file photo shows a fence and a sign cordoning off a contaminated toxic waste dump site in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, N.Y. (AP)

  • Love Canal Lawsuits2.jpg

    FILE – In this Aug. 4, 1978 file photo, children play in the front yard of their home on 99th Street in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, N.Y. The children’s parents were among irate homeowners whose property was built over a former dumping site for toxic chemicals. (AP Photo/TK)

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. –  Thirty-five years after Love Canal’s oozing toxic waste scared away a neighborhood and became a symbol of environmental catastrophe, history could be repeating itself.

New residents, attracted by promises of cleaned-up land and affordable homes, say in lawsuits that they are being sickened by the same buried chemicals from the disaster in the Niagara Falls neighborhood in the 1970s.

“We’re stuck here. We want to get out,” said 34-year-old Dan Reynolds, adding that he’s been plagued by mysterious rashes and other ailments since he moved into the four-bedroom home purchased a decade ago for $39,900.

His wife, Teresa, said she’s had two miscarriages and numerous unexplained cysts.

“We knew it was Love Canal, that chemicals were here,” she said. But when she bought the house, she said she was swayed by assurances that the waste was contained and the area was safe.

Six families have sued over the past several months. Lawyers familiar with the case say notice has been given that an additional 1,100 claims could be coming.

The lawsuits, which don’t specify damages sought, contend Love Canal was never properly remediated and dangerous toxins continue to leach onto residents’ properties.

The main target of the lawsuits, Occidental Petroleum Corp., which bought the company that dumped the chemicals and was tasked by the state with monitoring the site in 1995, contends the waste is contained and that state and federal agencies back up those findings.

“Data from sampling over the past 25 years have demonstrated that the containment system is operating as designed and is protective of health, safety and the environment,” said a statement from Glenn Springs Holdings, the Occidental subsidiary in charge of maintaining the site.

The latest case is all too familiar to Lois Gibbs, the former housewife who led the charge for the 1970s evacuation and warned against resettling the area. She recently returned to mark the 35th anniversary of the disaster.

“It was so weird to go back and stand next to someone who was crying and saying the exact same thing I said 35 years ago,” she said.

Love Canal’s notorious history began when Hooker Chemical Co. used the abandoned canal from 1942 to 1953 to dump 21,800 tons of industrial hazardous waste.

That canal was later capped, and homes and a school were built on top of it. But snow melt from an unusually harsh winter in 1977 seeped into the buried 16-acre canal and forced chemical waste into groundwater and to the surface, oozing into yards and basements.

Residents began complaining of miscarriages, urinary and kidney problems and mental disabilities in their children.

With Love Canal getting national attention, President Jimmy Carter in 1978 issued a disaster declaration that eventually led to evacuation and compensation for more than 900 families. The crisis also led to federal Superfund legislation to clean up the nation’s abandoned waste sites.

Although complete streets were permanently bulldozed around Love Canal, those immediately north and west of the landfill were refurbished following a $230 million cleanup that involved capping the canal with clay, a plastic liner and topsoil.

Beginning in 1990, about 260 homes were given new vinyl siding, roofs and windows and resold at prices 20 percent below market value. The neighborhood was renamed Black Creek Village.

In addition to Occidental, defendants include the city of Niagara Falls and its water board and contractors enlisted by Occidental to maintain and test the site today.

An attorney for the city declined to comment on the pending litigation.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, while declining to address the lawsuits, called the area “the most sampled piece of property on the planet.”

“The canal has not leaked,” spokesman Mike Basile said. “The monitoring and containment system is as effective today” as when first installed.

But Reynolds and others say danger continues to brew beyond the 70-acre fenced-in containment area, pointing to the discovery of chemicals during a 2011 sewer excavation project. According to the lawsuits, crews worsened the contamination by using high-powered hoses to flush the chemicals through the streets and storm drains.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation concluded the contamination, 20 feet below ground, was an isolated pocket left over from before remediation and hadn’t recently leaked from the canal.

The Reynoldses are unconvinced that the containment system ever really worked and believe chemicals have been spreading for years, noting their home is just outside the original emergency zone.

Around the time of the sewer repair, waste backed up into their basement, they said, leaving behind an acrid black residue that tested positive for dangerous chemicals.

Gibbs said that when she returned recently, she was surprised the containment site no longer is posted with “danger” signs and that someone house hunting in the neighborhood wouldn’t know there are toxins there.

“It says private property,” she said. “It’s like a gated community for chemicals.”

Maine volcanoes (yes, Maine) among world’s biggest

LiveScience
  • mount-desert-island-maine

    Mount Desert Island in Maine’s Acadia National Park as seen from across the Mount Desert Narrows. (EDWIN CHASE)

DENVER –  Maine has supervolcanoes. Wait, Maine has volcanoes? Yes, and their eruptions could have been among the biggest ever on Earth, geoscientist Sheila Seaman reported Tuesday at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting.

“Long before there were these things called supervolcanoes, we’ve known about giant, big, horrific silicic volcanic eruptions,” said Seaman, of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The most massive of these blasts in recent history was Toba, which blew up an island in Indonesia 2.5 million years ago. The explosion heaved 700 cubic miles of magma out of the Earth’s crust.

Around 420 million years ago, a series of super-eruptions dropped thick piles of ash and lava fragments along the proto-East Coast. There are at least four volcanoes spread out along 100 miles of Maine’s coast, Seaman said. [Countdown: History’s Most Destructive Volcanoes]

The huge volcanic rock piles are consistent with caldera-forming eruptions, Seaman said. These explosions empty a magma chamber, leaving a gaping wound in the Earth think Yellowstone National Park, or the San Juan volcanic field in Colorado.

Since they formed, the ancient volcanic layers have been tilted up by tectonic forces, providing a top-to-bottom slice through a supervolcano. For example, Isle au Haut, part of Acadia National Park, exposes the heart of a volcano. “The whole magma chamber is lying on its side,” Seaman said.

Building on years of geologic mapping and tectonic reconstructions by other researchers, Seaman has traced a direct connection between the cooled and crystallized magma chambers, called plutons, and their enormous ash deposits.

Volcanic rock layers on Maine’s Cranberry Island have a 2,300-foot-thick  layer of welded tuff, a rock formed from volcanic ash. The welded tuff from Toba’s most recent blowout is 2,000 feet thick, Seaman said. On the remote Isle au Haut, part of Acadia National Park, the volcanic rocks are more than 3 miles thick, Seaman said. They’re capped by an immense ash flow, more than 3,200 feet thick.

Seaman estimates the caldera at Mount Desert Island would have been about 15 miles long and 15 miles wide. For comparison, Toba’s caldera is 62 miles long and 18 miles wide.

“The coast is so serene and so beautiful and has such a terrible, violent past,” Seaman told LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet.

Seaman thinks the super-eruptions struck between 424 million to 419 million years ago, in the Silurian period, after islands the size of Japan slammed into the eastern edge of Laurentia, the continental core of North America. Afterward, tectonic forces stretched and tore Earth’s crust behind the collision zone, making space for magma to rise from the mantle, the layer beneath the crust.

She plans further work to better understand the conditions that caused the super-eruptions, such as mixing of different kinds of magma.

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Detritus from the Gold Rush is heading toward America’s food basket

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    View of gold miners excavating an eroded bluff with jets of water at a placer mine in Dutch Flat, California, between 1857 and 1870. (DENVER PUBLIC LIBRARY)

When gold was discovered in California in 1849, the miners were confronted with a problem: there were huge amounts of the precious metal in the foothills of the Sierra and the only way to get it out was to blast it out of the soil with high-pressure hoses.

The resulting mud containing the gold was run through sluices and mixed with mercury so the gold would settle to the bottom. The remains of the 19th-century practice are still visible in the area, and the poisonous mercury is now slowly making its way toward the fruit and nut orchards, and the rice fields of California’s lush Central Valley, America’s food basket, according to new research by a team of British and American scientists.

Every time there is a big flood — usually once a decade — the mercury in the sediment moves farther down into the valley. It could take 10,000 years for it all to finally be released from the sediment and spread out, the researchers said.

Their research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists came from Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, the University of Exeter in England, Sonoma State University in California and the University of South Carolina.

Michael Singer of St. Andrews, who also holds an appointment at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the plants in the area had not yet been tested for mercury, but the element also affects fish in the area and contamination of fish with mercury is “well-established.”

The area studied is called the Yuba Fan, built up around the Yuba River that runs out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Sacramento, not far from California’s verdant wine country.

“The Yuba fan is totally artificial, created by humans,” said Singer. “When the miners realized the gold was tucked deep in sedimentary layers they invented hydraulic mining.” The fan contains more than a billion cubic meters of sediment reaching down to the Golden Gate.

The miners used high pressure hoses, called monitors, to blast the hillsides, washing the gold-bearing mud into sluices. The process dramatically altered the landscape; massive mudslides filled whole valleys.

Mercury was added to the sluices to form an amalgam with the gold that settled to the bottom. The miners then burned off some of the mercury leaving the gold easier to collect. Much of it remained in the sediment. The sediment washed downstream, Singer said, actually forming new river valleys and terraces, the fan.

The practice was made illegal in 1884, but by that time some miners made a great deal of money, Singer said.

Meanwhile, the terraces acted like dams, holding back the contaminated soil. The researchers, using NASA imagery and historical data, found that every time there is a major flood, terraces fail and the contaminated soil moves further toward the lowlands.

Mercury taint from the Gold Rush has been found in the food supply in the San Francisco area, but the contamination in the Yuba fan is hundreds of times greater. Scientists believe trees do not absorb mercury so fruits and nuts may be safe, although that has not been tested. There is evidence, however, that rice may be vulnerable.

Mercury contamination from gold mining is a worldwide problem.Two years ago, scientists discovered that gold mining in the Amazon had already contaminated the food supply in the Madre de Dios area of Peru, in that case from burning off the mercury in the amalgam.

In another paper published this week, scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science mapped the contamination at Madre de Dios using space satellites.

They found that the extent of gold mining there increased 400 percent from 1999 to 2012 and the loss of forest caused by the miners stripping the trees, had tripled since 2008, the time of the Great Recession when gold prices sky-rocketed. That paper also was published in the PNAS.

The destruction came from hundreds of gold mines, large and small, all unregulated.

“The first world and the third world are looking more and more alike,” said Barbara Fraser, a science journalist based in Peru and expert on the Amazon mining operations.

“There is certainly a parallel – what is happening in the Amazon – not just in Peru, but in Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and probably most or all of the other Amazonian countries — is the modern version of the California and Klondike gold rushes. The tools are similar, mercury is used here, as it was there, and the mercury gets into the environment and stays there for a long time.”